2 Simple Marketing Rules That Big Brands Break


Share on LinkedIn

There are few hard and fast rules in marketing. Some of the best marketing, particularly in the digital era, comes from breaking rules other business disciplines hold dear. Marketing works when it’s innovative, when it stands out from the crowd. Marketing by numbers has never been successful and never will be.

Having said that, there are some unwritten marketing rules that you should never break. These aren’t particularly strict or restrictive rules. In fact, they’re mostly common sense. Or at least they should be common sense. But these common sense rules are broken all of the time, and the worst offenders are often the most high profile.

Don’t Lie

This might be the most obvious marketing rule ever written, but I’m going to write it again. Do not lie to consumers. This is not meant as a moral plea, if your morals allow you to lie on a large scale that’s your business. The simple fact is, you will get caught. Getting caught in a marketing lie will only have one effect; it will drive customers away.

Marketing rules as obvious as this one may not need an example, but we’ve had a big one over the last week. Last week, Nokia unveiled its latest attempt at an iPhone killer, the Lumia 920. They marketed the phone on a number of key features, including their new optical image stabilization (OIS) system for the cameras. The key marketing tool they used to demonstrate this feature was a video designed to show how much better video and stills will look using the camera on the new phone.

The video cuts between shots of a young couple using the phone and comparisons of footage with and without OIS. The thing is, the footage wasn’t taken on the Lumia 920. So the demonstration, didn’t actually demonstrate the feature it was designed to sell. Nokia have since admitted it was shot using a professional camera crew, with professional equipment. This lie of omission has already had a big impact on Nokia’s share price. The long-term effects, on sales and reputation, could be even more damaging.

Spellcheck, Spellcheck and Proofread

This is another basic marketing rule, but one that’s broken every single day. If you’re communicating with consumers through written content, they need to be able to read it. Typos and spelling errors happen all the time, it’s human nature to make mistakes. That’s why we have spell check, and why we proofread. The mistakes aren’t the problem; it’s missing them that can hurt you.

While Mitt Romney can’t be described as a brand, he is a politician and they market themselves in just the same ways as brands do. Romney’s spelling mistake came from a really unfortunate source. It came from an innovative marketing idea. When his campaign released an Instagram-style app that allowed users to add slogans to their photos, Romney looked like he had a digital marketing coup on his hands. Unfortunately, spellcheck obviously wasn’t high on the agenda when they planned the app.

One of the slogans, supposed to read “A Better America”, appeared as “A Better Amercia” on the app. When you want to become the president of a country, you should probably know how to spell it. Someone in the Romney camp failed to spot the blunder and all the potential good press the app could have generated, just faded away.

Spelling and telling the truth, two of the things that you learn at the same time you’re learning to ride a bike. These aren’t just basic marketing rules, they’re basic life lessons. Which makes it all the more surprising that two enormous marketing campaigns could make these mistakes. The lesson for marketers is simple. Get the basics right first, and then you can innovate.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Eoin Keenan
Media and Content Manager at Silicon Cloud. We help businesses to drive leads and build customer relationships through online marketing and social media. I blog mainly about social media & marketing, with some tech thrown in for good measure. All thoughts come filtered through other lives in finance, ecommerce, customer service and journalism.


  1. Thanks for the post Eoin. Those two marketing tactics are simple yet very essential. Sometimes, small things are those that really matters or has a great impact when not properly use. But the good thing about big brands is that even if how many rules they will break still, consumers buy their product. – not a single trust is broken. How amazing, right?


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here